"Have You a Clear Authority?" Dynasties, Da'was, and the Rise of Islamic States in Medieval Morocco

Doctoral Dissertation


At present, the dominant sect in Morocco is the Mālikī sect of Sunni Islam; because of this, it has been assumed that the country and its respective Muslim dynasties (dawla) have been largely Mālikī Sunni for much of its history.The problem with this assumption is that the evidence for such a history is sparse and uneven. The only medieval Moroccan dynasty with a clear Mālikī affiliation was the Almoravids (r. 440 -541 AH /1048-1147 CE). Despite this, historians worked under the assumption that most Moroccan dynasties, such as the Idrīsids (r. 172- 375 / 789 -985), the Almohads (r.524-668/ 1130-1269) and the Marīnids (before 642-870/before 1244-1465), were Mālikī Sunni who fought one another for territorial rather than spiritual gains, with the one exception being the smaller, “fringe” dynasties of the Barghawāṭa and the Midrārids.According to this logic, questions related to the religiopolitical legitimacy of medieval Moroccan dynasties were seen as part of religious reform movements originating within the Mālikī sect rather than belonging to sectarian divisions outside of Mālikī sect.

However, medieval Morocco was not the exclusive domain of the Mālikī Sunni sect wherein Mālikī Sunni dynasties fought one another for territorial control and material gains.Instead, medieval Morocco was a contested space wherein different Islamic sects and their respective followers competed with one another for religiopolitical legitimacy, which in turn bolstered their dynastic authority.Each Moroccan dynasty rose and fell in response to its predecessor’s and its successor’s claims to embody the correct da’wa (articulation of Islamic belief) and its corresponding authority.The physical manifestation of this non-homogenous religious landscape was the presence of constant dynastic revolution coupled with changing definitions, rituals, and figures of legitimacy throughout the Middle Ages.

In this dynamic sectarian environment, the Mālikī sect was not able to establish itself in medieval Morocco in the same way that had in other parts of the Islamic West.The general absence of the Mālikī sect in Morocco resulted in the sect’s subsequent inability to maintain dynastic control and influence during the medieval period.


Attribute NameValues
Author A.L. Castonguay
Contributor Deborah G. Tor, Research Director
Degree Level Doctoral Dissertation
Degree Discipline History
Degree Name Doctor of Philosophy
Banner Code

Defense Date
  • 2020-06-19

Submission Date 2020-07-16
  • dynasties

  • Maliki

  • sectarianism

  • Marinid

  • Shi'a

  • Sunni

  • history

  • Barghawata

  • Almoravid

  • Ibadi

  • Islam

  • Idrisid

  • caliphate

  • Almohad

  • Midrarid

  • English

Record Visibility Public
Content License
  • All rights reserved

Departments and Units
Catalog Record


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